It was like my bookshelf came to life! The Gay American History @ 40 conference in New York in May 2016 gave me a unique opportunity to meet with and engage with my ‘heroes’, the LGBT scholars whose pioneering work has inspired and stimulated my own work.
I have long admired, and been inspired by, the work of John D’Emilio, Jonathan Ned Katz, Esther Newton and the many other LGBT historians who gathered together at this conference – their scholarship and activism has motivated me to want to work on documenting, analysing and sharing the rich history of the Cork LGBT community. At the early stages of my own work on the Cork LGBT Archive, John D’Emilio had taken the time to engage in email discussions with me, providing invaluable advice and encouragement. It was a pleasure then to be able to meet him at the conference, to be able to meet and engage with my ‘heroes’ and to be present for a stimulating, and at times heated, discussion on the current state of LGBT history.
Gay American History @ 40 was a combination conference, a reunion of academic / activist comrades and a tribute to the inspirational work of Jonathan Ned Katz. The conference marked the fortieth anniversary of Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the USA (1976) and it provided an opportunity to discuss the ways in which theories, categories, research methods and priorities have been constructed, challenged, and reconstructed over the last forty years of historical research on sexuality and gender.
I was delighted to be asked to write a guest blog for the UCC Faculty of Law’s Blog on Copyright Issues for Community Digital Archives. Check it out here.
I am a Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist.
My Digital Humanities project, creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive, is a truly multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary project – it requires me to understand and engage with a number of different fields and disciplines, including History, Social History, LGBT History, Archives, Community Archives, Digital Archives, as well as understanding the how of doing it digitally. Not a challenging task at all!!!!
A lot of the time it seems as if I am floundering in a land I don’t know, where people speak a language I do not understand. The Humanities side is fine, I speak that language, but I’m new to the Digital.
And yet I keep trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always learning through the process. As Samuel Beckett said: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’
I have just returned from a visit to New York to meet with a number of LGBT Digital Archive projects. Building these connections and opportunities for the sharing of ideas, experiences and practical skills is crucial for me as I work on developing a Cork LGBT Digital Archive. The opportunity to be in a room with others who share my obsession with the importance of preserving and sharing the rich history of LGBT communities, and with using digital tools to do so, is a crucial but rare experience for me.
I met with Anthony Cocciolo, Associate Professor at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science in New York. Since 2008 Anthony Cocciolo has been working with his students on digitising some of the audio and video collection from the Lesbian Herstory Archive in Brooklyn.
Anthony teaches a module called Projects in Moving Image and Sound Archiving. As part of this course the students work with Anthony on digitising various collections from the Lesbian Herstory Archive. They began with series of interviews Joan Nestle conducted over a number of years with Mabel Hampton (1902-1989). Mabel was an African American Lesbian who was closely connected with the Lesbian Herstory Archive. They have since digitised the archive’s collection of Audre Lorde’s public speeches, readings, and panel presentations, a series of videos in relation to the Daughters of Bilitis group and the interviews from Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold (study of the lesbian bar culture in Buffalo). Continue reading
There is no doubt that the enormous technological developments of recent decades have fundamentally changed how we ‘do history’. In particular they have created a plethora of new possibilities for the preservation and presentation of historical and archival materials. While this is primarily positive, enabling the preservation and display of historical documentation that may otherwise be lost forever, it is not without challenges. Foremost amongst these for historians is assessing what digital tool or tools to use for capturing, analysing, presenting and sharing this material.
In Digital History Cohen and Rosenzweig explore how “new media and new technologies have challenged historians to rethink the ways that they research, write, present and teach about the past.” The book is designed essentially to be a practical handbook on how to create digital history. In the introduction they stress that “we need to critically and soberly assess where computers, networks, and digital media are and aren’t useful for historians…..in what ways can digital media and digital networks allow us to do our work as historians better?”
If one agrees that, on balance, it is worth doing history digitally, then how does one go about it? How do we choose from the plethora of tools available? For my work I am particularly interested in the development of digital archives and in digital tools that enable the storage, display and sharing of digitised materials. However, there seems to be some confusion and disagreement about what a digital archive is not to mention what are the best digital tools to use to create one. There are many tools, both open source and commercial, to choose from. As Carolyn Li-Madeo states: “Digital Archives are easier to create than ever before, utilizing content management systems such as Omeka, Drupal, Collective Access or even WordPress, libraries and institutions can share and organize their collections through the web.” Continue reading